Tiffany Mofield, affectionately nicknamed “Big Baby,” found life’s greatest joy in her family. A loving daughter, sister, mother, and grandmother, she lived a social life in Salem County, New Jersey. Shatifia Cooke, her daughter, considers her mother her “best friend” and writes on Facebook that “family was everything to my mom” and that Tiffany poured “pure love and affection” onto her children.
Tiffany, 43, passed away on April 29 in Edna Mahan Correctional Center for Women, leaving behind her two parents, three children, and four grandchildren. All are devastated. Shatifia describes her mother’s death as “unbearable” and like “a bad dream I can’t wake up from.” She writes, “I wanted you home but not like this… I waited almost 4 years for that woman to get back out here with me[.] I couldn’t wait to wake up to her cooking breakfast.” Shatifia feels “robbed” of the life she should have had: a life with her mom in it.
The presumptive cause of Tiffany’s death is COVID-19, but she never received a test. In fact, the story of her medical maltreatment is absolutely horrifying. After spending two weeks in the prison’s infirmary in April, Tiffany was discharged to the administrative segregation unit (ad-seg, for short) despite clear, persistent symptoms. Instead of providing medical treatment for her continued illness, prison officials quarantined her in solitary confinement. Tiffany’s condition worsened after she was released from the infirmary, says Michelle Angelina, her friend and neighbor in ad-seg. Michelle describes the protocol for taking showers in ad-seg: women must have on a belly belt and handcuffs, and the shower door must be locked. On April 29, Tiffany was taking a shower when she began calling out that “she could not breathe,” remembers Michelle. Tiffany begged for staff to unlock the door, but no one responded. Perhaps no one was there. Tiffany lost consciousness inside the locked shower. By the time staff members arrived, she was unresponsive. She was dead before the ambulance arrived.
Michelle, among other women incarcerated in ad-seg, witnessed the nightmarish episode of Tiffany’s death. “She died right in front of my neighbor’s door and just diagonally from my door, about five feet away,” she recounts. On the other hand, Tiffany’s family was kept largely uninformed about her condition for the duration of her illness. They had no idea she was receiving mild treatment, says their lawyer, Oliver Barry. “They learned only after she died that Tiffany was never hospitalized.” Tiffany’s father, Kevin Mofield, adds that he has called the prison frequently since his daughter’s death, but “they put me on hold and then hang up.”
As Shatifia has noted on Facebook, the conditions of Tiffany’s death are not so dissimilar from George Floyd’s death, which prompted weeks of nationwide protesting against the criminal justice system’s unjust treatment of black people. As a result of her mother’s death, Shatifia aims to raise awareness about the less-publicized phenomenon of medical maltreatment inside prisons, which has proven fatal especially in the current health crisis. She has posted the hashtag, #SayHerNameTiffanyMofield.
We mourn the loss of a loving and loved woman, and we mourn the conditions in which she died. Say her name, Tiffany Mofield.